County to pay $4.5M to settle murder conviction lawsuit
CLEVELAND (AP) — Three Ohio men who spent two decades behind bars because police and prosecutors allegedly hid statements and evidence that could have cleared them in a 1995 slaying are expected to receive $1.5 million each to settle the county’s liability in federal lawsuits naming two former assistant prosecutors as defendants.
A Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman confirmed Sunday that the Cuyahoga County Council has scheduled a vote for Tuesday to approve a settlement in suits filed last year by 39-year-old Laurese Glover, 40-year-old Eugene Johnson and 40-year-old Derrick Wheatt.
The payments won’t settle pending claims against the impoverished city of East Cleveland, where police arrested the men in the 1995 slaying of 19-year-old Clifton Hudson.
Dave Lambert, chief of the Prosecutor’s Office civil division, said in a statement the settlement is intended to “put this long-running matter behind us” and avoid the potential for an even larger judgment “based upon the amount of time these plaintiffs spent in prison.”
The three men have steadfastly maintained their innocence. A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge freed them from prison and ordered a new trial in 2015 after the Ohio Innocence Project found statements that were never presented to their attorneys at trial or during an appeal. The charges were dropped in 2016 when the Prosecutor’s Office chose not to pursue another trial.
The men’s attorneys have claimed that East Cleveland police manipulated a then-14-year-old girl into identifying the men even though her view of the shooting was blocked by the vehicle the men were sitting in at the time. The lawsuit claimed East Cleveland police ignored statements from others pointing to someone other than the men as Hudson’s killer.
When attorneys working on an appeal sought the case file from East Cleveland police in 1998, the assistant prosecutors sent a letter to the department telling them the file wasn’t a public record and instead asked police to send the file to them, the lawsuits said.
The Ohio Innocence Project made another public records request in 2013. East Cleveland police at that time turned over statements and evidence that led to the men being exonerated.